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There are quite a few mentions of the term "real alcoholic" in the


Book as noted below --[in brackets for emphasis]--
Page 21: But what about the --[real alcoholic]--? He may start off as

a moderate drinker; he may or may not become a continuous hard

drinker; but at some stage of his drinking career he begins to lose

all control of his liquor consumption, once he starts to drink.

Pages 23-24: The tragic truth is that if the man be a --[real

alcoholic]--, the happy day may not arrive. He has lost control. At a

certain point in the drinking of every alcoholic, he passes into a

state where the most powerful desire to stop drinking is of absolutely

no avail. This tragic situation has already arrived in practically

every case long before it is suspected.

Page 30
MOST OF us have been unwilling to admit we were --[real alcoholics]--.

No person likes to think he is bodily and mentally different from his

fellows. Therefore, it is not surprising that our drinking careers

have been characterized by countless vain attempts to prove we could

drink like other people. The idea that somehow, someday he will

control and enjoy his drinking is the great obsession of every

abnormal drinker. The persistence of this illusion is astonishing.

Many pursue it into the gates of insanity or death.

We learned that we had to fully concede to our innermost selves that

we were alcoholics. This is the first step in recovery. The delusion

that we are like other people, or presently may be, has to be smashed.
We alcoholics are men and women who have lost the ability to control

our drinking. We know that no --[real alcoholic]-- ever recovers

control. All of us felt at times that we were regaining control, but

such intervals-usually brief-were inevitably followed by still less

control, which led in time to pitiful and incomprehensible

demoralization. We are convinced to a man that alcoholics of our type

are in the grip of a progressive illness. Over any considerable period

we get worse, never better.

Page 31: Despite all we can say, many who are --[real alcoholics]--

are not going to believe they are in that class. By every form of

self-deception and experimentation, they will try to prove themselves

exceptions to the rule, therefore nonalcoholic. If anyone who is

showing inability to control his drinking can do the right- about-face

and drink like a gentleman, our hats are off to him. Heaven knows, we

have tried hard enough and long enough to drink like other people!
Page 34: As we look back, we feel we had gone on drinking many years

beyond the point where we could quit on our will power. If anyone

questions whether he has entered this dangerous area, let him try

leaving liquor alone for one year. If he is a --[real alcoholic]-- and

very far advanced, there is scant chance of success. In the early days

of our drinking we occasionally remained sober for a year or more,

becoming serious drinkers again later. Though you may be able to stop

for a considerable period, you may yet be a potential alcoholic. We

think few, to whom this book will appeal, can stay dry anything like a

year. Some will be drunk the day after making their resolutions; most

of them within a few weeks.
Page 35: We told him what we knew of alcoholism and the answer we had

found. He made a beginning. His family was re-assembled, and he began

to work as a salesman for the business he had lost through drinking.

All went well for a time, but he failed to enlarge his spiritual life.

To his consternation, he found himself drunk half a dozen times in

rapid succession. On each of these occasions we worked with him,

reviewing carefully what had happened. He agreed he was a --[real

alcoholic]-- and in a serious condition. He knew he faced another trip

to the asylum if he kept on. Moreover, he would lose his family for

whom he had a deep affection.

Page 92: If you are satisfied that he is a --[real alcoholic]--, begin

to dwell on the hopeless feature of the malady. Show him, from your

own experience, how the queer mental condition surrounding that first

drink prevents normal functioning of the will power. Don't, at this

stage, refer to this book, unless he has seen it and wishes to discuss

it. And be careful not to brand him as an alcoholic. Let him draw his

own conclusion. If he sticks to the idea that he can still control his

drinking, tell him that possibly he can-if he is not too alcoholic.

But insist that if he is severely afflicted, there may be little

chance he can recover by himself.

Page 109: Two: Your husband is showing lack of control, for he is

unable to stay on the water wagon even when he wants to. He often gets

entirely out of hand when drinking. He admits this is true, but is

positive that he will do better. He has begun to try, with or without

your cooperation, various means of moderating or staying dry. Maybe he

is beginning to lose his friends. His business may suffer somewhat. He

is worried at times, and is becoming aware that he cannot drink like

other people. He sometimes drinks in the morning and through the day

also, to hold his nervousness in check. He is remorseful after serious

drinking bouts and tells you he wants to stop. But when he gets over

the spree, he begins to think once more how he can drink moderately

next time. We think this person is in danger. These are the earmarks

of a --[real alcoholic]--. Perhaps he can still tend to business

fairly well. He has by no means ruined everything. As we say among

ourselves, "He wants to want to stop."

-----Original Message-----

Let me try my hand at answering your question.
It was common in early AA to distinguish between three different kinds

of drinkers. Let's call them Types 1, 2, and 3 for the purposes of

this discussion. Sometimes they were called (Type 1) "social

drinkers," (Type 2) "heavy drinkers," and (Type 3)


Richmond Walker, in Twenty Four Hours a Day (1948), referred to the

last category as "merry go round drinkers."
Mrs. Marty Mann makes this same kind of distinction in the book she

wrote for the National Council on Alcoholism. Our South Bend good old

timer, Brownie, makes that three-fold distinction in the material

about him in The St. Louis Gambler and the Railroad Man. Dr. Jellinek

(and many others) tried to make distinctions of this same sort during

the 1940's and 1950's.

It had been noted that some alcoholics were clearly drinking

alcoholically from the time they took their very first drink. The

first time they had a chance at a bottle (even if they were just

teenagers), they drank themselves rip roaring drunk, and they just

kept on drinking that way from that point on.
But other alcoholics started out as social drinkers, and then

gradually began drinking more and more, until finally after enough

years they crossed some invisible line, and became clearly and

unambiguously alcoholic drinkers.

Psychologists who study alcoholism and public health agencies which

are concerned with alcoholism have found that they also have to make

some kind of distinction between people who are drinking a lot, and

people who are alcoholics. You cannot measure the amount of alcohol

that is consumed and use that to determine who is a heavy drinker and

who is an alcoholic.

All sorts of fancy definitions have been dreamed up by psychologists,

medical doctors, and so on, to try to identify where you make the

division between Type Two heavy drinkers (or "alcohol abusers" or

whatever term you're using) and Type Three genuine alcoholics.

Let us not get into quarrels about what precise terminology to use

here, because there have been a variety of different terms used over

the years.
But as far as I can see, the basic distinction historically has been a

simple one. A Type Two heavy drinker (or alcohol abuser, or whatever)

who is given sufficient reason to stop drinking, will be able to stop

on his own simply by using will power. Maybe his doctor puts him on a

heart medication and tells him that he has to take the medication to

save his life, and that this medication cannot be mixed with alcohol

in the system. Or something in his life puts him in a situation where

he will get in enormous trouble if he does not quit. So he simply

grits his teeth, and stops drinking. Just like that. Permanently.
A Type Three true alcoholic will find that he cannot stop drinking on

his own, by his own will power, no matter how serious the consequences

are going to be. His wife says that she will leave him, his employer

says that he will fire him, the judge says that he will give him

twenty years in prison the next time he drives drunk, his doctor says

that he will be dead within a year if he keeps on drinking. But no

matter what it is, a true alcoholic will STILL keep drinking, in spite

of all that, if he is trying to do it by himself by his own willpower.

If you listen to tape recordings of the good old timers, you will find

numerous examples of alcoholics whose drinking was destroying them

totally, who still could not stop on their own, simply by using will

One thing which muddies the waters nowadays, is that (beginning with

Dr. Jellinek's famous chart back in the 1940's) the experts on

alcoholism have assembled data on the way that the disease of

alcoholism progresses, where they can spot the symptoms of Type Three

chronic alcoholism much earlier than they could in the 1930's and

1940's. So nowadays we can sometimes identify a person as definitely

a chronic alcoholic early in the progression of the disease, and send

that person off to AA, and save that person an awful lot of misery and

heartbreak, EVEN THOUGH in early AA they would not have allowed that

person to attend AA meetings because they would have felt that this

person's drinking did not qualify him or her to be a "true


So is this particular individual a Type Two heavy drinker who is

getting himself or herself in trouble, and maybe needs some

encouragement to quit doing that from a psychotherapist or someone

like that?
Or is this particular individual a Type Three alcoholic EARLY in the

progression of the disease, who hasn't gotten himself or herself in

major trouble yet, but who nevertheless is going to need AA in order

to quit? In current AA jargon, we would sometimes call this kind of

person a "high bottom" drunk.
So what Fiona was asking was, were the people in that statistical

table who went to AA meetings for a year and then quit going to

meetings but were still sober even five years later, actually Type

Three alcoholics? Or were they Type Two heavy drinkers who got sober

in AA meetings, but actually would have been able to get sober all on

their own anyway, just by using their own willpower?

In other words, were they Type Two heavy drinkers who had been

misdiagnosed as early stage Type Three alcoholics?

The issue at stake is, is it EVER safe for a Type Three genuine

alcoholic to quit going to meetings? If they quit going to meetings,

will Type Three alcoholics ALWAYS inevitably go back to their

alcoholic drinking sooner or later? The good old timers in my part of

Indiana say (on the basis of their many years of experience) that Type

Three genuine alcoholics will ALWAYS go back to drinking eventually if

they quit going to AA meetings, with the one exception that a few do

manage to use church going as a substitute for AA meetings, and can

stay sober that way.
Fiona's question is not some nit picking question about numbers and

statistics, but a word of warning about something which could cost

alcoholics their lives if they make the wrong decision. Fiona is

warning all of us (based in her case of her knowledge of Irish

alcoholics): do NOT assume on the basis of those 3 and 5 year survival

rate statistics which were recently posted that you will have some

hope of staying sober if you quit going to AA meetings.
Given the fact that Fiona's Irish alcoholics and my own Hoosier

alcoholics here in Indiana seem to suffer the same fate if they quit

going to AA meetings, I would advise anyone reading these AAHL

postings to take Fiona's warning with deadly seriousness. Her warning

is simple: don't use those 3 and 5 year survival statistics to play

games with your life, if you are a true alcoholic.

I would add an additional warning to hers. Alcoholism is cunning,

baffling, and powerful. Also patient, sneaky, and lying. Many a true

alcoholic here in my part of Indiana has gone to AA meetings and

stayed sober for a long time (maybe even ten years of more) until the

voice of Mr. Alcoholism inside that person's head has started

murmuring, "You know, I haven't had any trouble staying off the booze

these past ten years, and you know, I'm not really like some of these

other people in the AA meetings. I'm more intelligent than they are,

have more will power and self control. I never fell as low as they

fell. Maybe I'm not really an alcoholic at all. Maybe I was just a

heavy drinker, you know, somebody who just got carried away sometimes.

But I'm so much older and wiser now. You know, I think it would be

safe now, after ten years, to go out and have a little social drink."
We have a lot of retreads here in Hoosier AA who let themselves listen

to that lying voice inside their heads, and went back out drinking,

and then had to suffer years of misery before they finally came

dragging themselves back in the doors of AA, admitting finally, "O.K.,

I guess that I (even I) actually am an alcoholic of some sort, the

kind who needs AA meetings if I want to live instead of dying."

I should also say that the people in Indiana who go back out and try

it again after ten years or so, are people who tell us later on that

in fact they never worked the steps, even though they went to

meetings. It is particularly doing a really thorough and deep

reaching Fourth Step which is vital if you want people to give you the

ultimate accolade at your funeral, and say with enormous respect in

their voices, "he died sober," "she died sober."
So to Fiona's warning, I will add my own. Don't use those 3 and 5

year survival rate statistics which were posted to play games with

your life. Keep on going to meetings. Keep up constant contact with

your fellow AA members. Do a real Fourth Step and ferret out all of

the resentment and fear in your life, and figure out what all your

character defects are, so you won't be tempted to look down your nose

at ANYBODY in an AA meeting, thinking yourself superior to that person

in any way whatsoever. http://hindsfoot.org/tools.html

And remember that EVEN IF someone could prove that 33-1/3 % of genuine

alcoholics could eventually quit going to AA meetings and still be

sober 3 years later, or even 5 years later, that is till playing

Russian roulette with a six gun with four chambers loaded. And 5

years isn't 10 years or 15 years.
Glenn C.

South Bend, Indiana, U.S.

(A REAL alcoholic, sober today ONLY by the grace of God and the help

of the people in this fellowship, who is not planning on jumping out

of the lifeboat, thank you!)
++++Message 3028. . . . . . . . . . . . Re: Data on 3 and 5 year survival


From: mertonmm3 . . . . . . . . . . . . 1/4/2006 7:47:00 PM
A response to Message 3012 from Dave Smith

(pmds at aol.com)

From (mertonmm3 at yahoo.com)
An interesting point but I take issue with your primary premise that

alcoholism is a purely physical disease like diabetes. All of what you

say is true as Dr. Silkworth points out in his Opinion and the

"phenomenon of craving" which develops after the first drink.


you teach a diabetic to adjust his insulin level and diet and "problem

solved". If you tell the alcoholic just not to take the first drink

(after hospitalization) because thats where the phenomenon begans and

problem solved right??????? Its common sense, no first drink no

problem????? You tell someone allergic to strawberries, no

strawberries and they'll usually avoid them, same thing with booze,


The real problem with alcohol is in the mind, NOT THE BODY. Its the

insanity of being without any ability not to take the first drink

after a period of sobriety. Its the mental obsession not the

compulsion that requires 15 month long trips to the treatment center.

Thats what the chapter "There is a Solution" tells us.
Much of what you say is true. Bill never says AA is the only way.

Anyone who reads the Jerry McAuley books from the late 1800's knows

that people were recovering from alcoholism thru spiritual experience

long before AA. And Bill also supported research into any medical

research that would help. If you look closely at his life you'll see

that Bill formally divorced AA in 1955. HE SPENT THE REST OF HIS LIFE


what the sub-secret LSD papers at Stepping Stones reveal. Its also

what the enormous work he did on nicotinic acid aka niacin aka vitamin

B-3 and its effect on Alcoholism.

I'm not a big Bill Wilson flagwaver. Please understand that I have

serious issues. But with alcoholism its not a football game between

the AA's and the non-AA's. Its Alcoholics who have decided thats what

they are (or whatever label you want to put on someone who can't stop

drinking when they want to) vs. the mental obsession that somehow,

someway, we'll be able to drink without the consequenses of the one

way elevator ride.
The easy way (my opinion) is to become like a leaf on the ground

fighting nothing for a year surrounded by people who have succeeded

somehow. No fight, just let the wind blow us around for awhile. (Of

course this is always when the significant other we've been waiting

for our entire life shows up and we entangle ourselves - or "we're

just going to be friends" - or "listen, its just sex, not a

relationship". We're complicated. Our minds tell us strange things

which we actually believe (but nobody else does).

In AAHistoryLovers@yahoogroups.com, Dave Smith pmds@a... wrote:


> It seems to me that trying to make alcoholics different from heavy

drinkers is an attempt to make black and white out of something which

is most likely gray.


> The vast majority of scientific evidence seems to say that

alcoholism is primarily a biogenetic inherited susceptibility.

Physiologically alcoholics metabolize alcohol and mind altering

chemicals differently than 80 - 90% of the population (in the United

States, in other places it is higher or lower.


> It appears that the rate of alcoholism is lower in cultures that

have had alcohol the longest period of time and higher in those

cultures that have had it the least amount of time.) See for example

Under the Influence by Milam et al.


> If, therefore, alcoholism is a real disease then it should be

viewed as a real disease.


> Some diabetics can control their diabetes by diet, others by

diet and oral medication and others by multiple daily injections.

Each one is a "real" diabetic, it is the disease itself that is

different in different people. Some milder, some more severe.


> Some alcoholics get sober in their teens, others in their 80's

and all ages in between. Are we to decide which are real alcoholics?

Logically it would seem that those in their 80's may have a milder

form of alcoholism as they were able to drink longer, function and

not die. The younger ones perhaps have a very severe form and

therefore are unable to continue.


> We in AA talk a lot about spirituality and higher powers, but I

think we forget about the miraculous nature of sobriety. The

"spiritual awakening," the "moment of clarity," the

"surrender," the

"epiphany," the "emotional/spiritual/psychological

bottom," the

"moment of nonjudgmental awareness" or whatever name it is

given...the moment when we receive the gift of the ability to

> not drink is what it is.


> Some have this moment and go to AA, some to church, some

nowhere and some other places too innumerable to mentions. In AA we

say "Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these


However, we know that Bill had his before any steps whatever. I had

mine the day before I entered a treatment center and I didn't even

know what the steps were. We all have many,

> many stories about people's spiritual awakening and as the person

who had it describes it, we see what they are talking about because

it happened to us.


> Going to AA does not guarantee sobriety any more than not going

to AA guarantees continued drinking. I came to AA for the first time

in 1984 and I have been sober ever since. I went to at least 1,000

meetings in my first two years. Since that time I have never had a

period of time more than a week or so that I have not gone to meetings

and I generally go to 3-5 meetings per week. That doesn't

necessarily keep me sober, it is just what I do. I love the people,

the experience, the blending, the hope, the tears, the

laughter....the whole package. Many do not do what I do. It doesn't

make them better or worse or more or less likely to drink. At least

that is my opinion based on my experience.


> Having said all of the above, I'm not sure this "Real or Fake

> Alcoholic/heavy drinker" is an appropriate topic for the AA

HistoryLovers. I think the study is very interesting and not

surprising to me, but to try and figure this out does not seem

"figureoutable." There is tremendous wisdom in the phrase

"You're an

alcoholic when you say you are."


> Dave Smith



> [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]


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